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Despite All the Warnings by UKGC, Operators Are Still Exposing Children to Gambling Ads, Study Shows

- July 10, 2019 By Oliver Young -

The UK Gambling Commission monitors the situation with underage exposure to gambling ads at all times, but even though at the beginning of the year that gambling exposure was dropping, a new study finds that children are still seeing gambling ads online, mainly due to the irresponsibility on part of the operators.

Underage gamblers still exposed to gambling ads because operators were doing close to nothing to stop the exposure, research says.

Underage gamblers still exposed to gambling ads because operators were doing close to nothing to stop the exposure, research says.

A New Study Shows Shocking Results

A new research study by Ipsos Mori, which is part of a longer study commissioned by GambleAware, showed terrifying results. The research team had interviewed problem gamblers and young people on their exposure to gambling adverts and had used other means to examine the situation. The results showed that UK gambling companies were not doing enough to prevent children from seeing gambling ads on social media. They have been branded irresponsible for not stopping the underage’s exposure to gambling ads on Twitter in particular.

On Twitter, an estimated 41,000 under 16 children were following gambling-related Twitter accounts, retweeted or replied to tweets on those accounts 13,000 times. While operators did not directly target the vulnerable or the children, as that is forbidden by law, the ads they promoted were likely to attract their attention. The research shows that little did they do to block their access to these types of gambling-related accounts. Based on browsing history, the research team used 11 avatars or fake profiles with “problem gambler” or “under 13 child” fake identities, and this is how they got to these results.

The results discovered no evidence that operators had taken significant steps to screen out children and vulnerable and protect them from the temptation caused by ads. They could have done that by analysing their browsing history, just like the researchers did. And, there was little evidence that these operators were promoting responsible gambling. Only 7% of close to 900,000 tweets contained a responsible gambling message.

Is There a Solution?

This study comes as a sequel to a previous study that showed a rise in numbers of underage problem gamblers, with more than 50,000 children participating in gambling activities. For matters to be worse, a significant percentage of those children said that they learned about gambling from ads and commercials. One interviewed young individual aged between 16 and 17 said to the researchers that one must know Ladbrokes, because it was like McDonald’s, always there.

And instead of moderating advertising as they promised, operators have actually increased their spending on gambling ads by 24% between the years 2015 and 2018. The ads online and on TV contain features that are still likely to appeal to the vulnerable and the children, like cartoon-like characters, or influencers, people they relate to.

The ads are most prominent during football matches, as found by the analysis of live sports on the TV. For instance, during the match between Rangers and Celtic, there was one ad every 10 seconds, meaning there were 920 occasions on which gambling ads were visible.

The Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson said that it was no wonder the UK had so many underage gamblers when irresponsible gambling operators were placing adverts that appeal to kids. Watson emphasized the fact the only way to tackle gambling addiction was to start tackling adverts.

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